Halloween can be a scary time. And one of the scariest things that can happen on Halloween and the morning after is discovering that your dog has eaten your kids’ Halloween candy—wrappers and all.
Many kinds of candy are toxic to dogs.
The Pet Poison Helpline reports that calls to their helpline go up 12 percent every year during the week after Halloween.
But there may be a lot more poisoned pets during the annual celebration of scary events and delicious candy than there are calls to the Pet Poison Helpline.
Petplan insurance reports that there are 32 percent more trips to the vets for food poisoning in dogs and cats during Halloween week than at any other time of the year.
Discovering your dog sprawled out on the floor next to an overturned and partially eaten bowl of candy any time of year is a reason to take immediate action.
Here’s what you need to be on the lookout for and what you need to do when you discover that your fur baby has gotten into a bowl of sweet candy treats.
Signs of Candy Toxicity on Dogs
Swallowing candy wrappers and all can be dangerous for your dog in two different ways.
The candy inside the wrapper can be toxic.
We all know that chocolate is poisonous for dogs, but so are sugar-free candies sweetened with xylitol.
So are candies that contain macadamia nuts, grapes, cherries, raisins, licorice, or alcohol.
Dogs don’t usually show signs that they have been poisoned by eating candy for at least 12 hours after they eat them. General symptoms include:
- Agitation and anxiety.
- Increased thirst.
- Decreased appetite.
In severe cases, seizures, blindness, and death.
One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body-weight is potentially lethal to dogs. Dark chocolate is even more toxic than milk chocolate.
There is an online chocolate toxicity calculator that can help you predict the effects of chocolate on your dog.
The theobromine and caffeine in chocolate can cause all the symptoms on the list above in your dog, plus accelerated heart rate, irregular pulse, rapid breathing, swollen abdomen, rigidity, and tremors.
Candies that contain caffeine can cause symptoms similar to those caused by chocolate.
The Merck Manual tells us that dogs that consume candies that contain macadamia nuts develop all of these symptoms about 12 hours after eating the nuts, plus muscle weakness that causes tremors. They may also develop a fever.
Xylitol is added to candies to make them safer for consumption by humans who have diabetes. In dogs, xylitol lowers blood sugar levels, sometimes dramatically.
Your dog can exhibit signs of insulin shock, like tremors, rapid breathing, agitation, extreme anxiety, and loss of consciousness, without being given an insulin shot.
Even when your dog recovers, there can be lingering, severe liver damage.
Cannabis edibles can be toxic for dogs, mostly because of dosage. Smaller dogs can become intoxicated when they eat cannabis candy intended for a human adult.
The problem ingredient is THC, not CBD. If you give your dog CBD, make sure it is in a dog-appropriate form and dosage.
If you wait until your dog develops full-blown symptoms of poisoning by the candy inside the wrappers, it may be too late to get effective treatment.
It is important to take your dog to the vet if you only suspect she has gotten into the candy. The wrappers themselves present a second problem.
Signs of Digestive Tract Blockage
No candy is good for dogs, but some candies at least aren’t toxic.
When your dog eats these candies, including the wrappers, there is a different set of problems. Sometimes there are serious consequences, and sometimes there are not.
One or two paper wrappers may pass on through your dog’s digestive tract in a day or two. If they don’t, you may observe these symptoms:
Vomiting may come and go for weeks if foil wrappers form a ball in your dog’s stomach that food can go around.
They will reduce your dog’s appetite, and your dog may begin to lose weight and develop skin problems due to poor nutrition.
Constant vomiting with a swollen abdomen is a sign of a complete bowel blockage. This is a medical emergency.
Prompt treatment by a veterinarian is necessary to save your dog’s life when these symptoms develop.
If candy was wrapped and tied up with a string, your dog may swallow both the wrapper and the string.
The string can get caught between your dog’s teeth and lower in the digestive tract.
Or a string may protrude from the other end of your dog’s digestive tract, with part of the string caught in the intestines, bunching them up like an accordion.
Don’t pull strings stuck in your dog’s mouth or anus. They may pull digestive organs, turning them inside out or causing a potentially fatal digestive strangulation.
There are no good first aid options for dogs that have swallowed candy wrappers.
If you induce vomiting, and your dog has swallowed something sharp with the candy wrapper, sharp edges can do as much damage coming back up as they did going down.
If you give your dog a heavy meal to coat the wrappers to make them pass through with a large bowel movement, they can get stuck in your dog’s colon.
The best option for treating swallowed candy wrappers is endoscopy at your veterinarian’s office. The procedure requires general anesthesia.
It requires an overnight stay in the animal hospital. It’s expensive. But it may save your dog from a slow and painful death.
Preventing Problems with Candy and Candy Wrappers and Your Dog
The fundamental rule for preventing problems with candy and candy wrappers and your dog is easy to remember: Never, ever give your dog candy as a treat.
Unlike cats, which have no ability to detect sweet tastes at all, dogs have a peculiar way of detecting sweetness totally different from sweet taste perception in humans.
When dogs eat something sweet, their tongues become super-sensitive to the food’s salt content.
Humans eat candy and think “Nice! That’s sweet!” Dogs eat candy and probably respond with something on the lines of “Oh good! That’s salty!”
When your dog is wolfing down a lot of candy, it isn’t because they like the sweet taste of candy. It’s because they want to join in on the party.
They see humans have a great time that isn’t all about the dog, and eating a bowl of candy is their way of having fun, too.
Similarly, when you wake up the morning after Halloween and you discover that your dog has raided the candy bowl, the real issue probably is separation anxiety.
Your dog did not have direct contact with her humans the night before, and maybe not the day before, but they left their scent all over every piece of candy.
Devouring a bowl of candy is your dog’s way of getting close to you by your smell.
Your dog doesn’t want candy. Your dog wants you. With that in mind, here are five tips for preventing problems from candy and candy wrappers and your dog.
Include your dog in your plans for the holidays. Don’t leave your dog in his crate alone while the rest of the family is busy with a Halloween party or a Christmas party or opening baskets of candy on Easter morning.
Find a way to work them into your activities so they will not become frustrated by your absence. Make sure they have their own safe treats when you are all enjoying candy.
Keep the candy bowl out of reach of your dog. Don’t leave an open bowl of wrapped candies on a coffee table or on the edge of a counter when your dog is around.
Guard the food you don’t want your dog to eat from bored or curious canines.
Dispose of candy wrappers in a garbage can with a lid that fits snugly over the can.
A trash can with a lid that you operate by a foot pedal is ideal for keeping pets away from the wrappers and other items that can injure or poison them.
Have a conversation with your children about the foods that it is safe for your dogs to eat. Explain to them that doggie treats aren’t the same treats that they enjoy. (And at the same time, prevent your children from trying their dog’s food.)
Make sure that they guard their Halloween, Christmas, and Easter candies so the family dog doesn’t find them, and that they put all wrappers in the trash.
If your dog regularly eats things she shouldn’t, ask your vet about treatments for anxiety.
Dogs that eat non-food items tend to be suffering separation anxiety. For your dog, leaving them alone while you go to a party is just as stressful as leaving them alone when you go to work.
This doesn’t mean that you have to include your dog in all your activities, but it helps to make sure they always have something with your scent on it.
This can be the toy or ball you use to play with them.
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